A Case for Balance – Recalling the Myth of Icarus and Daedalus

The myth of Icarus and Daedalus is a case for attaining Balance in life. When the father and son needed to escape an intolerable situation, the father created wings for them, so that they could simply fly away. The wings were held together with wax. The father warned the son not to fly too low because the moisture from the sea would render the wings ineffective. He also warned his son against flying too high, where the heat of the sun would melt the wax in his wings. The son did not heed the father’s warning. He flew too high and indeed, the sun melted the wax, and Icarus toppled into the sea.

The tale of Icarus and Daedalus has been illustrated by many artists. I am especially fond of Matisse’s Icarus. The story stems from mankind’s struggle for better balance in life; it speaks to many people. In striving toward balance, we must aim toward flying neither too high nor too low.

Flying too low will result in mediocrity or even worse, it can cause failure. Determined not to fail, others will fly higher. Still others want to excel, and they tend to fly the highest.


Image Credit Huffington Post Here

While it might seem that the best choice is arcing the highest, that can also be problematic. The Huffington Post examines the phenomenon of overachieving:

“If people are always saying this about you, you may be an overachiever.

“But while the title of ‘overachiever’ often has a positive connotation — think back to your elementary school days, when being an overachiever basically meant being the teacher’s pet — it’s not always all it’s cracked up to be. Overachievers are more likely, for instance, to feel anxious. And their motivations for, well, over-achieving, often stem from the need to avoid negative judgment, explains Robert Arkin, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at The Ohio State University.”

Arkin continues in saying that because the overachiever is continuously focusing on the future and winning the next competition or on the past, assessing ways to avoid failure, they prevent themselves from enjoying the reward of living in the moment.

“Because overachievers are constantly trying to avoid bad outcomes, they are heavily focused on the future — and as a result, often neglect the present.”

Overachievers are plagued by anxiety:

“If there’s one mental trait that’s highly correlated with being an overachiever, it’s anxiety. It goes back to the future-focused mindset: Constantly worrying about what the future holds and achieving everything that needs to be achieved is a recipe for stress.”

Arkin says that overachieving is born out of a person’s basic sense of inferiority.

Because of the overachiever’s fundamental feeling of inadequacy and because of his desperate attempt to be perfect, to relieve himself of that inadequacy, he cannot withstand any criticism at all. “Criticism is the worst [problem for overachievers]It all goes back to the fear of failure — overachievers’ public enemy No. 1 is criticism, because it implies that they failed at something, Arkin says.”

For overachievers, winning is of utmost importance.

“In addition, overachievers are more likely to value being promoted regardless of how they got it, ‘even if it’s at the expense of a coworker or if they didn’t really earn it,’ Eliot says. ‘Maybe they talked their way into it, or they took their boss out for dinner enough times. People look at that and say, “You didn’t really earn that.” But a classic overachiever doesn’t care — only achievement matters.” Huffington Post Here

Without a doubt, we should not become complacent. We should not be lazy and set ourselves up for failure. On the other hand, striving to be perfect–striving to fly the highest is not good either. Happiness in life is learning to be more balanced.

“The hardest part for man is the letting go. For some reason, he thinks himself big enough to know and to see what’s good for him. But in the letting go……..is found freedom. In the letting go…….. is found the flight!” ― C. JoyBell C.

“Thank God men cannot fly, and lay waste the sky as well as the earth.”
― Henry David Thoreau

“It was as though they had been plunged into a fabulous dream.
This, thought Harry, was surely the only way to travel — past swirls and turrets of snowy cloud, in a car full of hot, bright sunlight, with a fat pack of toffees in the glove compartment…” ― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

“A power of Butterfly must be –
The Aptitude to fly
Meadows of Majesty concedes
And easy Sweeps of Sky -”
― Emily Dickinson



2 thoughts on “A Case for Balance – Recalling the Myth of Icarus and Daedalus

  1. Us Icarus

    Oops Icarus,
    An all-too-fine conviction
    Of the troubled ones who
    Try too high to fly
    And those of us who
    Thus fall

    I wonder if it helps
    That the parent in the
    Mythic flight is older
    And designer
    Of the task ahead

    If we learn to fly
    Study something of
    The design and
    Of the wings

    Might our take-off
    End in a landing that
    Makes our flying
    Success as well as

    C L Couch
    (inspired by Jacki Kellum’s compelling thoughts on balance)


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